Kwanzaa: The Cultural Holiday

The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation (MXMF) sponsored a very colorful Kwanzaa Ceremony at the Loves Jazz and Art Center earlier this evening (dec. 29) as part of the seven days of Kwanzaa celebration that runs from Dec. 26-Jan.1.

Kwanzaa, was first celebrated in 1966 by Dr. Ron “Maulana” Kareng. Dr. Kareng created the event in order to provide a way for African Americans and all Africans of the Diasopora to remember, comemorate, and celebrate their shared African Heritage. Kwanzaa focuses on community, and the links between individuals, their community, and their communal history; the history that includes recognizing the Africanicity of themselves, as well as recognizing the struggles that have been endured since the Diaspora.

The celebration of Kwanzaa varies from community to community; but all Kwanzaa celebrations have several things in common. Kwanzaa begins on December 26th, and lasts until January 1st. A Kinara, bearing seven candles, one black symbolizing unity, 3 red candles symbolizing struggle, and 3 green candles symbolizing past and future victories and hope. The candles are lit, one each day, while rembering the 7 values of Kwanzaa, Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective work), Ujamaa( Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani, (Faith).

One of main themes that seperates Kwanzaa from other more popular celebrations at this time of year (namely Christmas and Hanukah) is it’s religous neutrality. Some might say that Kwanzaa is the anti-Christmas, which is not a fair representation. I would say that Kwanzaa is not the anti-christmas but to me it is a good solution to what christmas has come to represent, which is much more material focused as opposed to community oriented. It’s inclusiveness is most attributed to the fact that Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that is celebrated worldwide.

The celebration commenced with some very impressive polyrythms performed by Seku Neblett who played four drums known as “Bougurabous” with “Shashas” around his wrists. His fluid movements were hipnotic, with hands that floated effortlessly from drum to drum creating a very full sound. The Board President of the MXMF, Sharif Liwaru, made an opening statement and was followed by a brief history of Kwanzaa by Monalisa Ward (MXMF board member). Longtime activist Vicky Parks led the crowd in Libations with people shouting the names of persons in their lives who have passed on. After every new name shouted she poured a drink of water into a designated plant to help it grow. Then a group of participants lighted the Kinara and gave speeches reflecting the principles that they represent. Sharif made closing remarks, and elaborated on the conceptual plans the MXMF has for the Malcolm X birth site, which they want to expand into an ampitheatre, park, and museum dedicated to Malcolm X and the principles that he represented. The MXMF has a big future planned and could use help in resources and knowledge, if you are interested in helping them move forward with their goals they can be reached at:

Malcolm X Memorial Foundation
3226 Lake St.
Omaha, Ne 68111
Direct: (402) 216-3695
VM/Fax: 800-645-9287
Email: malcolmxfoundation(at)gosolo.com

“Celebrate Christmas Shutdown Stratcom”

Catholic Workers temporarily close off access to Offut Entrance during their annual Holy Innocence retreat.

“Emboldened” by their confirmed suspicions that the US Government has maintained close surveilance of their activities, midwest Catholic workers crossed the line at Stratcom Air Force Base earlier today (Dec. 28). In a recent Democracy Now segment Des Moines Catholic Worker Frank Cordaro said “the fact that we have made the list as a threat to the military only emboldens us, I guess, and maybe confirms to us that we’re on the right track.” in response to the Pentagon conducting surveillence of local peace activists.

Armed with banners, speeches, songs, and prayers the crowd marched towards the barricaded entrance of Stratcom. There were a total of four people who disobeyed the orders of Military Police and opened the gate that blocked their entry on base. They then proceeded to march on to the base and into the custody of the MPs. Three of the activists, Fr Jack McCalsin, Paul Gallagher, and Frank Cordaro, already have bannned & barred status from previous actions at Stratcom. Along with Renee Espeland the four face a possible six months in federal prison.

They were processed on base by the MPs and will most likely have to return for their court dates soon.

The line crossers were:
Fr Jack McCalsin, 76 yrs old, retire priest of 50 year from the Archdiocese of Omaha, NE
Paul Gallagher, 44 yrs old, from the Jaegerstaetter Catholic Worker Farm in Danville IL
Renee Espeland, 44 yrs old, mother of four and Chimney Sweep from Des Moines IA
Frank Cordro, 54 yrs old, Des Moines Catholic Worker, Des Moines IA

Pentagon spies on Nebraska Peace Activists

Omaha, NE

Spy

Democracy Now! reported last Thurs. Dec. 15, 2005 that authorities are keeping track of cars spotted at anti-war events around the country. The information, initially obtained and reported by MSNBC, indicates that the Pentagon has been conducting domestic surveillance of anti-war and anti-recruitment protesters across the country, including the demonstration at Offutt Air force base near Omaha, which was listed as a ‘credible threat.’

Bush has since admitted to signing an order authorizing domestic surveillance but has claimed that the spying was limited to people in the United States with a “clear link” to terrorism. This is at odds to the information published in MSNBC’s site, which mentions the protest at Offutt several times as well as events in New York, California, Florida, Georgia and several other states.